New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan has responded to criticism over his invitation of President Obama to attend the annual Al Smith Dinner, explaining that this invitation marks a time for discussion during a time of heated political exchanges over the contraception debate.
In a blog post published on Aug. 14, Dolan revealed that he has been inundated with correspondence protesting his decision to invite President Obama to the dinner. The President's attempt to have employers provide insurance coverage for products that cover contraceptive services for women upset many Catholic officials.
But Dolan is rising above the heated political exchanges and is pushing forward to create an environment that can foster civility, engagement, and dialogue to deal with difficult and divisive problems.
"Those who started the dinner 67 years ago believed that you can accomplish a lot more by inviting folks of different political loyalties to an uplifting evening, rather than in closing the door to them," Dolan wrote.
The Al Smith Dinner is known for being a non-partisan event where members of both parties can trade humor rather than attacks and both Obama and presumed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney have accepted invitations to speak at the dinner.
"Some have told me the invitation is a scandal," Dolan wrote. "That charge weighs on me, as it would on any person of faith, but especially a pastor, who longs to give good example, never bad. So, I apologize if I have given such scandal. I suppose it's a case of prudential judgment: would I give more scandal by inviting the two candidates, or by not inviting them?"
Dolan then added that we should all strive to listen to those who we disagree with, given that that is the example put forth by Jesus.
"In the end, I'm encouraged by the example of Jesus, who was blistered by his critics for dining with those some considered sinners; and by the recognition that, if I only sat down with people who agreed with me, and I with them, or with those who were saints, I'd be taking all my meals alone," Dolan wrote.